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Legal Separation or Divorce?

The decision to separate from your spouse is not one that should be taken lightly due to the severe impact it can have on yourself, your spouse and any children you may have, not to mention your finances. One of your first concerns will be whether to divorce or seek a legal separation.


While both actions dissolve a marriage, they are not the same. In fact, while divorce is often viewed as the end of a marriage, legal separation does not legally dissolve the union. Instead, it is considered a trial run at being divorced without actually ending the relationship.


Consequently, some couples who choose legal separation wish to maintain an amicable relationship with their spouse for the benefit of themselves and any children involved in the union.


What Exactly Is A Legal Separation?

A legal separation, also known as a decree of separate maintenance, is a civil proceeding. Essentially, it states that the spouses will live apart and not be subject to any further obligations to each other. It can also be called a legal separation or “decree of separate maintenance.”


A legal separation in Alberta differs from a divorce in that it is not recognized by the law and does not end a marriage. Instead, the couple continues to be legally married, but separates and lives apart. Usually, legal separations are granted when there are children involved, because of religious beliefs or when only one spouse wants a divorce.


There may be times when getting a legal separation is wise because it can give you time to work on other legal issues, such as child custody, while you are still legally married.


Why You Should Hire A Lawyer If You Are Getting Separated Or Divorced

If you are getting divorced or separated, it’s very important to consult a lawyer. Couples who split without legal advice may find themselves in financial trouble if the procedure isn’t managed well. Their partner may get away with taking more than they should of their money, property and assets.


A divorce lawyer can provide guidance throughout the process by filing the relevant documents in court, they can represent you in negotiations with your spouse and they can negotiate on your behalf with legal professionals like mediators or accountants. Many lawyers have expertise in family law and child support laws which can be really helpful in making sure your rights are protected.


A divorce is a difficult and emotional experience. Not only does it affect you, it also directly affects your children, especially if there are younger children in the family. A lawyer will be able to guide you through the divorce process and help you reach the outcome that is in the best interests of yourself and your children.


Why You Should Contact A Divorce Mediator Before Separating

With any type of divorce or common law separation, you and your spouse can enlist the help of a mediator to assist you in arriving at an agreement. Unlike negotiations between lawyers, mediation is more informal and doesn’t require you or your spouse to plead the case for one party over another.


In fact, one of the primary benefits of mediation is that it’s a non-adversarial process. The mediator will help each of you work towards creating an amicable separation agreement that’s tailored to the needs and goals of both parties.


Legal Separation And Divorce Are Not The Same Thing

A divorce and a legal separation are similar in that they both remove a spouse from the other’s life. However, there are some key differences between the two. A separation agreement is usually temporary and can be terminated at any time, while a divorce is permanent.

If you and your spouse decide to separate, but don’t officially file for divorce, you may decide to create an agreement that divides up the marital property and that also addresses child custody, child support and financial issues.


A separation agreement, commonly referred to as a “legal separation” or a “marital separation agreement”, is used to define how the couple will navigate their way through the separation process. The terms of the agreement outline:


● how custody of children will be managed,

● visitation rights, and

● the division of assets and debts.


There is no law that says you must have a legal separation. Not all states recognize legal separation or offer it as an option to married couples. However, if you want a court order dictating the terms of your separation and divorce, then a legal separation is your best bet.